From El Paso to Hollywood

MurrayAbraham(2).jpg By Justine Frostad — 01/31/10
Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham grew up in El Paso, Texas near the Mexican border, where acting was the farthest thing from his mind.
In fact Abraham was part of a gang before he had a part in a play.
“You kind of had to belong to a gang for self protection.”
It wasn’t until Abraham was about sixteen years old that acting unexpectedly became part of his life.
“A teacher in high school saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there…it was like an epiphany, it was a gift from God. I really believe that and it changed my life,” he said.
Abraham eventually studied acting formally in New York City with esteemed drama teacher Uta Hagen. In 1966 he made his stage debut in Los Angeles in a production of Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. The theatre has remained a constant in Abraham’s life. He has a long list of theatrical performances including, The Fantasticks, Angels in America, Waiting for Godot, and King Lear to name a few.
During his career Abraham has transitioned easily from the stage to the silver screen. He claims there is little difference between acting in plays and movies.
“As far as I’m concerned the work is the work and ideally, which is what has happened in my life, you get to do both.”
Abraham made about a dozen films including Scarface and All the President’s Men before becoming famous. His breakthrough performance as composer Antonia Salieri in the 1984 film Amadeus won him an Oscar for Best Actor. For the role Abraham learned to read music, play the piano and conduct a symphony.
That Oscar he received for Amadeus has a special home.
“My mother has it. I’m a true Italian son. I’m devoted to her.”
As you might expect winning an Academy Award has had a life changing effect on Abraham’s life.
“I own the houses I live in, I mean they’re mine. I pay for my children’s education, I’m taking care of my mother in a facility that’s expensive. I’m also able to do classical work, which doesn’t pay very much money.”
Abraham has performed across genres and searches for one thing no matter what the role.
“The truth is the truth. That’s what you always search for whether it’s comedy or tragedy,” Abraham said.
As an Oscar winner, Abraham is able to vote for Academy Award nominees and he knows what he wants in an Academy Award worthy performance.
“I look to be moved…I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to be touched. I want to be changed,” he said.
This spring Abraham will be starring in a production of The Merchant of Venice in Boston. When the production wraps he will be traveling to Romania and Italy to work on a new film by Director Renzo Martinelli.


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